If you want to know the usual way tasks are divided in an EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) project for a processing facility, like a chemical plant or refinery, look at the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) below.

The first image shows the WBS up to the second level for an EPC project, which includes shutdown work.

The detailed design phase of the project is divided into different engineering specialties. Also, the construction part is split into activities before the facility shutdown and the main construction work.

The level 1 WBS elements

    1.  Feasibility study
    2.  Basic design and engineering[You can also call this FEED – Front End Engineering Design because it defines the basis of design at each equipment (component) level before sending tender information to the bidder for detailed design and construction]. Go to Velosi and Chiyoda to learn more about FEED and detailed design and engineering because they have explained it in details interesting ways.]
    3.  Detail design and engineering
    4.  Procurement
    5.  Construction


Level 2 WBS elements – Engineering

Once you figure out the first level of the engineering phase (from Conceptual/Feasibility Study to Detailed Design and Engineering), it can be expanded into further detail – level 2 WBS below. Suppose the detailed design and engineering are further broken down into level 2 WBS.

    1. Project Engineering[Depending upon the corporate procedure and environments, the definition of project engineering can differ significantly from another. But it typically involves project management and control activities. For example
        • Development of project procedures,
        • Change controls,
        • Schedules,
        • Cost estimate,
        • Risk management activities,
        • Consolidation of project deliverables, etc.]
    2.  Mechanical engineering
    3. Process engineering
    4. Piping engineering
    5. Civil/Structure engineering
    6. Electrical/Instrumentation engineering

But remember, this is not set in stone. So, you could find a slight difference in WBS depending on the project environment and enterprise procedure.

For example – you might come across a combined WBS – Mechanical and Piping instead of Mechanical and Piping separately. Similarly, you could use individual WBS – as in Civil rather than combined discipline – Civil/Structural Engineering if you want to monitor the cost and schedule for each trade.

Level 2 WBS elements – Construction

Construction can be decomposed into Level-2 WBS if the major brownfield scope is included.

      • Pre -Turnaround Construction[Review the scope of work because this may or may not be required depending on the scope, but if a significant amount of work can be done before turnarounds, this will usually be separated — for example, the Installation of tie-in spools with flanges]
      • Turnaround Construction[Construction works during the planned shutdown window because it can’t be done during normal operation — for example, removing existing process equipment, pipework, and instruments and tie-in to new ones for boiler management system].
      • Major Construction

The construction phase could also be broken down into Level-2 and 3 WBS as below.

      • Level 2 – Plant Area Name
      • Level 3 – Offsite Fabrication/Assembly Work
      • Level 3 – Onsite Construction Work

Level 2 WBS elements – Procurement

You could further break down overall procurement to plant area (location), like construction. So you can plan and measure the procurement status against the project area.

For example:

      • Plant Area – A (e.g., Utility Unit)
      • Plant Area – B (e.g. Blending Unit)
      • Plan Area – C (e.g. Tankages)

However, you may not require breaking down the procurement by the plant area if the project scope is within a single project area. In that case, you could split the procurement by the engagement type.

For example:

    1. Procurement of materials/equipment (e.g., Valves, Pipe and fittings, Mechanical Equipment, Hardware and software, etc.)
    2. Procurement of services/contracting (e.g., SMP Construction package, Piling Contract, Heavy Lift services)

WBS – Owner/Client vs Contractors

If you are with the owner team, the WBS above will guide you to get started and brainstorm with the team. Finalise WBS, communicate with the team and incorporate it into procurement and contracting documents so the contractor’s WBS – Cost, Schedule and Estimate align with your expectation – as to how you want them to organise the project data.

If you are with a contracting organisation, then keep reading below.

I often heard clients reject contractor schedules because they don’t meet client expectations. One of the key reasons is WBS structure. The client will have difficulty rolling up the schedule data to a higher level that feeds into the client’s master schedule. Most contracts mention WBS. At least a minimum level that contractors need to follow.

Even if the contract doesn’t state the detailed requirements for WBS, it’s always a good idea to communicate with the client about the WBS format you will work with to avoid rework.

The Tools to Create WBS

I used to create WBS with MS Word or EXCEL and White Board. Recently, I have been using Xmind – mind mapping software to brainstorm ideas to develop WBS that aligned with the project scope and satisfied project requirements.

It’s helpful, especially when working with the team, because it’s flexible enough to break down WBS level, name, layout, and format.

Getting Started with Sample WBS

Using the WBS template above, you should be able to start creating WBS for your next engineering and construction project.

Download a sample WBS  for engineering and construction and start building the EPC schedule.


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